Monday, November 14, 2005

Lasering Lemke - Issue 5

Issue 5 - Denominational Identity – "Can Southern Baptists survive as a denomination in what is often depicted as a “post-denominational era”? What does the future hold for Southern Baptists in a day when denominational name brand loyalty is at an all-time low? How will traditional Baptist entities such as Lifeway and NAMB intersect with the emerging church movement? Will the Cooperative Program survive?"

After a below average appearance at the plate thus far in his study, the good Dr. hits this one out of the park. But then again the subject matter is served up like a slow breaking pitch across the middle of the plate by none other than the leaders of the SBC.

Let me address this from a local church perspective. After pastoring SBC Churches for almost 26 years I think I have learned a few things about how the local church responds to outside stimuli from the “Convention”.

1. The local church has learned that it can never send enough money to the Cooperative Program or to the Special Offerings that are solicited by the convention, it has therefore decided to keep more of its own receipts and send less or at the very least channel its giving to its preferred providers of service. Growth in Giving campaigns are increasingly viewed with skepticism since they encourage greater percentages for national and state causes than most local churches are willing to support.

2. The local church has discovered that using a Sunday School quarterly is not the only way to teach the Bible in Sunday School. More and more pastors are writing their own curriculum or opting for cut and paste options being offered by more and more providers. And if you want to buy something, sells almost all the books that Lifeway sells at much lower prices. Many local church pastors have realized that with projection technology and a good book for the class members to add to their personal libraries they can have a quality education program and expose their members to cutting edge teaching and materials. After all it is no secret that average Southern Baptists write the bulk of the standard traditional Sunday morning curriculum not the movers and shakers of the convention.

3. The local church has learned that the “denomination” reacts to change in the Christian realm rather than leading the change. Therefore the cutting edge, high profile resources seldom come from Nashville but from other sources. With the internet many local churches are asking “Why do we need Nashville?” Outside of Beth Moore, I can’t think of a thing my church really needs that I can’t get elsewhere.

The prediction/warning that Dr. Lemke gives is right on the money.
Prediction/Warning: Without a course correction in which SBC entities earn again the respect and confidence of Southern Baptists, other evangelical groups will fill the void left by a disconnection between individual Baptists (and their local churches) with the SBC. The day is over that Baptists will use an approach just because of denominational name brand identity.


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